I was gone for more than 11 years. I didn’t come home to the Philippines the entire time and yet still I’ve always referred to it as home. Being an immigrant, I have learned to live life in a linear format. I’ve learned to set milestones and targets so that by a certain year or age, I would have accomplished this or that.
After moving to Los Angeles from Texas, my years pretty much became a timeline of goals and aspirations. Waiting on my residency and green card has kept me focused on developing professionally, the idea of upward mobility. Initially my plans were to climb the career ladder from being a classroom teacher to school principal, and then school district administrator. That is evolving more into multi-tasking and entrepreneurship: performing a variety of roles and duties the way I would like to define and perform them, and not be constrained by the system and the status quo.
Simultaneously, I was also developing personally and expanding my social circles. I have become friends with people of differing backgrounds, ethnicities and interests who help me see things in multiple perspectives. I have met people who challenged my beliefs and perspectives; who I’ve disagreed with in so many ways; and yet I’ve learned from them to stand true to my ideals and conviction and in more ways than one, they taught me to be stronger and more confident.
I finally had the chance to come home two years ago. My strength and confidence, my dreams and aspirations all faded away. Suddenly I reverted back to my old self, that same kid who sort of felt out of place, who did things out of the norm, who didn’t know what he wanted to be. I was home but I was out of my element. I couldn’t clearly articulate my grown-up plans and goals. When I did, it almost felt like they are not achievable and that I am just making things up. I hated the feeling of knowing what I want to do, but not knowing where to start.
I probably was also clinging to the youthful days of the past, where my siblings and I would share grand ideas and lofty goals like the world is ours for the taking; when we’d play with dirt and random objects to build miniature cities and imagine a world full of possibilities; when we’d quiz each other with facts and trivia from our set of encyclopedia.
Facing the realities of the present, such idealisms take a backseat to the need for pragmatism. My siblings and I are all adults now with different priorities and aspirations. Some of them have their own families now, their own plans and their own dreams. Life is not so linear after all. Parents and siblings separate to form a family tree with branches going to whichever direction they’re bound to go. A big part of me wants to hold on and stay with the main trunk, but an evolving part of me is growing my own stem.